© Rita Watson, 2016
Source: © Rita Watson, 2016

Fourth of July fireworks will often take our breath away. It is a day to celebrate freedom. In addition to commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, you can turn it into a personal celebration by expressing gratitude, letting go of hurt or angry feelings and speaking kind words.  Researchers at the University of California Davis and the Positive Psychology Program at the University of Pennsylvania outline these benefits. 

It is so easy to be grateful when things are going our way, but every so often anger and hurt envelop us and gratitude  becomes a challenge.  We want to greet people and be cheerful with people we love, but we just cannot seem to find our smile.  We want to look lovingly at the special person in our life, but he or she has hurt us. Maybe we are the one’s who hurt someone else and didn’t realize it. But we can feel the tension. Instead of talking about it, we just ignore each other. But what happens when sadness or anger linger too long and you just cannot muster up those loving feelings? What happens when anxiety and depression set in?

Benefits of gratitude

This is the time when Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at University of California at Davis, would be reminding us: "Gratitude is an attitude, not a feeling that can be easily willed." Even if you are not satisfied with your life as it is today, he pointed out, "if you go through grateful motions, the emotion of gratitude should be triggered. Gratitude as an Attitude Sparks Love | Psychology Today. 

Dr. Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at the University of California at Davis. Dr. Emmons believes that "Attitude change often follows behavior change. By living the gratitude that we do not necessarily feel, we can begin to feel the gratitude that we live." Emmons Lab - Psychology - UC Davis

According to UPenn articles on their website, gratitude will:

  • Help you make friends. A study found that thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek a more lasting relationship with you.
  • Improve your psychological health. Grateful people enjoy higher well-being and happiness, and suffer from reduced symptoms of depression.
  • Enhance empathy and reduce aggression. Those who show their gratitude are less likely to seek revenge against others and more likely to behave in a pro-social manner, with sensitivity and empathy.
  • Increase mental strength. Grateful people have an advantage in overcoming trauma and enhanced resilience, helping them to bounce back from highly stressful situations. (Morin, 2014).  Positive Psychology, UPenn,  Positive Psychology, UPenn

Here is the full article from Amy Morin, The 7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude, at PsychologyToday.com

Sometimes we need to start with forgiveness

This July 4th, give yourself the gifts of freedom, happiness, and love by embracing gratitude and forgiving someone who has hurt you instead of remaining wounded. Here is a three step plan:

  • Imagine building a room in your heart for the person who upset you.
  • Then simply say, “All is forgiven.”
  • Silently send wishes to that other person.

What will happen? This will free you and the person who has hurt you.  Soon when you think of that other person your smile will return.  And in a short time, that heaviness in your heart will begin to dissipate.  You will feel alive, happy, and look forward to embracing a new day.

Bring back your smile and you will find that gratitude becomes easier.  And if you need more structure, try the 45 day gratitude plan that will help you build a neuro-pathway in your brainTrain Your Brain for Gratitude,  a concept taught to us by Loretta Graziano Breuning Ph.D. -- The Science of Positivity.

Copyright 2017 Rita Watson

References

RA Emmons - "Thanks!: How the new science of gratitude can make you happier" 2007, Houghton Mifflin.

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